How Can We Process and Handle Emotions During These Stressful and Uncertain Times?

StressAs we continue through the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that each of us have some level of emotional stress. Whatever your situation, there has been and is change and uncertainty.  Emotional health is particularly important during times like this.

What is Emotional Health?

Emotional health is your ability to regulate your emotions instead of allowing them to control you and your life. Emotional wellness requires you to accept your feelings, and acceptance can lead to understanding, greater insight into yourself and your life, and the ability to make better decisions for yourself. You also know how to express your emotions in healthy ways, which can lead to stronger relationships and feeling closer to other people.

Being emotionally healthy also means that you are better able to handle the obstacles and setbacks that life will offer you from time to time. Emotional well-being comes when you are more resilient to disappointments and change, and it allows you to set and honor healthy boundaries for yourself and others.

Four Life Hacks for Improved Emotional Health

Here are four life hacks that can be used daily to help process and handle emotions.

Name What You are Feeling

The most important habit that can help you improve your emotional health is being able to understand your emotions. This starts by naming what you are feeling. Identifying your feelings and understanding the nuances between, say, apprehension and fear, helps you to recognize patterns, identify triggers, and determine which emotions are causing you to make which decisions.

Without understanding what you are feeling or where these emotions came from, you cannot make the best decisions about what to do with them. Plus, when you put a label on your feelings, your physiological response is decreased. When you recognize that you are feeling rage, for example, your body stops producing as many stress hormones because it understands that you are not in danger.

Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is a mental state in which you focus your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness teaches you to accept and acknowledge these things rather than become overwhelmed by them. This means you are managing your emotions better, which can make you more self-aware while enhancing your ability to concentrate improve your emotional health.

Turn Negative Self-Talk Around

Self-talk is the voice inside your head that is narrating your life. It can be a voice of optimism and positivity, but too often, it is a voice of criticism and pessimism. When your self-talk focuses on what you did wrong, what is wrong with you, and how you need to improve, it affects your emotional health and well-being. Changing that negative self-talk into more positive affirmations is essential for improving how you feel.

When you hear that negative voice chime in, ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself is based in reality. If the answer is no, then you have confirmation that your own negative bias is sabotaging you, so you can ignore those thoughts and move forward. If the answer is yes, then decide which two or three things you need to do to resolve the problem, then start acting. Ignoring that negative voice is also a good tactic. If you ignore your inner critic long enough, they will eventually stop talking.

Become More Curious. 

Curiosity is a hallmark of the emotionally healthy. When you are curious, you are open to ways to keep learning and growing in your life. This leads to continuous improvement and development. When you are curious about yourself, you become more self-aware and pay more attention to your needs, as well. Asking questions of yourself and others keeps you open to new perspectives and ideas, which helps you develop better empathy, too.

Perhaps the most important things we can do during these times is to seek out tools like those above to help us navigate uncharted situations.  New situations are confronting us regularly, and that is going continue into the foreseeable future. Take care of your emotional health as diligently as you do your physical health and you will be more equipped to weather all that is ahead.

If you are curious about this topic and eager to learn more, this book can help:

Master Your Emotions, The Art of Feeling Good by Jason Dyer

 

Deep Breathing for Stress Relief

Breathe“Calm down, take a deep breath.” “BREATHE.”  We often give or receive this advice when we or someone else is stressed, irritated or angry.  It is really good advice, but a few breaths in the midst of a stressful situation are but a tiny piece of the most effective use of deep breathing for our well-being.

During these days of the pandemic, we have a group of stressors that we may not have experienced before. Expanding our repertoire of tools to deal with them can only be a good thing.

Did you know that your body has a natural relaxation response?  Deep breathing exercises can effectively invoke your natural relaxation response and change the way your body responds to stress.

Your body can use deep breathing to allow the following body functions to happen:

  • You can increase the level of NO (nitric oxide) in your cells. This helps dilate blood vessels
  • You can lower your blood pressure
  • You can slow your breathing down with deep and meaningful breaths
  • You can lower your heart rate so you can feel calmer
  • You can slow down your metabolism so that it is more relaxed and efficient

Deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere and at any time. By doing deep breathing, you engage your brain so that you experience an increased sense of focus, profound calmness, and relaxation of the body.

While you can do deep breathing exercises anywhere, you need to do it for 20-30 minutes per day to lower your levels of stress and anxiety. That time can be spread throughout the day, as described below. Deep breathing will bathe your brain in the vital oxygen your brain needs at all times.  You can experience calmness, peacefulness, and a better sense of well-being.

Types of Deep Breathing Exercises

There are several ways you can go about deep breathing to reduce stress:

  • Visualization with deep breathing. This only takes a few seconds to complete the exercise. You consciously relax the tenseness in your shoulders and neck, which is where many people tighten up during stress. Then you take a deep breath and visualize the bottoms of your feet as having holes in them. Imagine that, through those holes, warm, comforting air is flowing up from the ground to fill up your entire body. The warmth is relaxing and you’ll feel less stress within seconds. Imagine your muscles soaking up the warmth and relaxation under the feeling. Do this several times a day when you feel the most stress.
  • Breathe with a stuffed animal. This exercise takes a little bit longer but it can be extremely soothing. The purpose of the stuffed animal is to remind you to breathe through your abdomen. As you take those deep breaths, it will rise and fall with each breath. If it isn’t, you aren’t breathing deeply enough. Lie down on a couch or bed and put one hand in the area of your chest. Place your stuffed animal in the middle of your abdomen. Keep your eyes closed and allow your body’s muscles to sequentially relax from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. Breathe in a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly breathe out. Try this for about twenty breaths and repeat throughout the day when you feel the most stressed out.
  • Escape breathing. Escape into your mind by seeing yourself in a calm and serene place. Use all your senses to imagine yourself in this place. Breathe deeply and imagine yourself as calm as possible in this place. It may be a beach with the crashing waves of the ocean, the forest with its rustling leaves and the sounds of birds, or a meadow, where the wind is blowing serenely on your face as you breathe in deeply.

Fitting Deep Breathing into your Day

Try these tips:

  • Do the deep breathing exercises while engaged in other daily activities: while stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, sitting on the train or bus. You can even do deep breathing while walking around.
  • Set one or two deep breathing sessions per day, perhaps in the morning and just before going to bed. This will allow you to de-stress so that you can start your day stress-free and end your day stress-free.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is when you use your brain just to notice the world around you without any type of judgment or criticism. This will increase your focus on the here and now so that you aren’t dwelling on past stressors.

To explore the topic more, check out these books for adults and children about deep breathing for health:  Deep Breathing for Adults and Children

Self-Care During Stay-at-Home Time and Beyond

self careOur personal situations during this stay-at-home days vary widely. You may be telecommuting/working at home or not, be alone or with children and spouse, have a pleasant atmosphere or not. Your reactions to all this may change as time goes on. What first seemed like a break may feel more like a confinement.

It’s a good time to remind ourselves about the importance of self-care, which also can (and perhaps should) change as time at home goes on.  You may be in a routine that includes good ways of taking care of yourself. Or the dynamics may be changing within your household and it may be helpful to consider some different self-care practices.

Self-care helps to relieve stress, improves mental health, and increases self-esteem. It gives you some space for just you. The activities may be brief or longer, and there are many options. I suggest you consider these; they may also give you additional ideas that particularly suit you.

Try Sensory Activities

Think of activities that use different senses, like touch, smell, taste, or sight. Perhaps it’s feeling the breeze or walking in the rain. Perhaps you have a firepit in your back yard. Light it and smell the fire, see the flames, feel the warmth, taste the marshmallows you roast. Try to find activities that really awaken your senses. Indoors, there’s always a bubble bath with candles lit around the room. Feast your eyes with the online options  like virtual tours of museums, national parks, zoos, etc. They can transport you to another place for a brief time. Cooking and baking are sensory too. The shortage of yeast in our stores indicates that lots of people are baking bread; kneading the dough is certainly sensory.

Do Creative Activities

Perhaps you have already been doing some creative activities during this extended time at home. Consider trying something else or take what you’re doing to another level.

  • Sketching, painting, charcoal or chalk art can be very enjoyable. Or get a new adult coloring book – there is an incredible range of options available to order online. (See link below)
  • Think of a type of craft you did as a child that would just be fun to do again.  I remember the one where you cover a sheet of paper with bright colored crayon designs, filling in all the spaces. Then you use the black crayon to cover it all. Then use a pointed tool to scratch out a design which reveals the colorful background you created. That takes me back!
  • Is there a craft project you’ve thought of doing and never did? You probably have lots of materials tucked away that can be used or you can re-purpose things that are stored away. An example of the latter: I have several seasonal wreaths that I have made. By removing the silk flowers, etc. I can start over and create a new one.
  • Do you have a bag or box of yarn that you purchased and didn’t crochet or knit into the intended object? Dig it out and start a project, even something very basic. How about fabric? A friend had a stockpile of unused fabric and has taken it out and is sewing beautiful face coverings for her own family and friends and is selling them besides. You may think of other ways to use yours.
  • Do you have lots of photos from the past? Creating collages or scrapbooks of some of them can be both creative and heart-warming. They can be for you or for others as gifts. In fact, as we are separated from family members, this is a great way to send some memories and love their way.

Watch Something Funny

Don’t underestimate the power of laughing! Watch funny movies or TV shows. Go to YouTube and search for your favorite classic comedies – Golden Girls, I Love Lucy, etc. Laughing is extremely healing and can quickly change your mood or mindset. This is also a good thing to do with others in your household. Laughing together can break through some of the stress of being together so much.

Write

Journaling is of course a good self-care activity. In addition, try writing some poetry, maybe some silly rhymes or limericks. Limerick: a humorous, frequently bawdy, verse of three long and two short lines rhyming. Google some. You’ll probably find ones that make you belly laugh. Be creative with your pen and paper.

The main thing is to take care of yourself during this unprecedented time in our lives.

Here is a free mandala for your to download, print and color. (When printing, if the preview doesn’t fill the page, change the “photo size” to full page)  Enjoy!

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http://carolbrusegar.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Marvelous-Mandalas-16.jpg

If you are interested in adult coloring books, there is a huge variety available on Amazon. Here’s a link: http://carolbrusegar.com/Adult-Coloring-Books

 

Who Else Feels Life is Getting More and More Surreal?

Who Else Feels Life is Getting More and More Surreal?
surreal
Surreal: “resembling a dream; fantastic and incongruous”

Yes, that’s how I feel these days. Somehow just about everything is different. Is it real?? An 88 year-old friend says she’s never experienced anything like this. And that says a lot.

Whether it’s increased isolation of seniors living alone or in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or students whose sports and musical competitions are being cancelled, or parents struggling to make arrangements for their children when schools close for periods of time, it hardly seems real.

As with so many things in life, balance is important. Neither listening constantly to media about the outbreak nor ignoring it entirely are advisable. Find and use a trusted source for information and advice. Many advise that our bottom line sources should be the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) or your state health department. If the media sources you are using don’t refer to those sources, check elsewhere.

Beyond the precautions being recommended, I suggest considering these additional things:

  • Establish some personal and/or household intentions about how you will come through this challenge. They may have to do with accomplishments, relationships among you and with others, future plans or other areas you may
  • Look at ways to make positive use of the restrictions. It is all too easy to slip into fear, anxiety, depression, or a combination of them all because of the changes. How can we use the additional time at home in ways that lift our spirits and other people’s spirits? This includes staying in contact and increasing contact through phone calls, cards, letters, online contact (Face Time, Skype, Facebook, etc.) with others who are feeling isolated and depressed. I think particularly of those older people at home alone or in nursing homes or care facilities.
  • Think of things you and others in your household enjoy doing or want to do at home but never seem to have time for. Reading, watching movies, listening to each others’ favorite music, playing board games and art/crafts are always good. How about setting up some challenges around these or other activities to provide something to work toward? This is a more positive way to think about this rather than just “filling time.”
  • Take on tasks and projects that have been put off over and over. These can become challenges to complete and see as accomplishments during this time. The obvious ones are cleaning out and arranging closets and garages. You may gather things to be given away to others or contributed to organizations helping those in need. It may be rearranging rooms or special cleaning projects. Writing and posting a list of the things you will do from the above suggestions where you can see it and check off accomplishments as well as add new ideas is useful.
  • Journaling during this time can be very helpful. Reflecting on our situation and how we handle it will both record these times for the future and help each of us work through our feelings, challenges and frustrations. Writing is so powerful; take time to do it yourself and encourage others to do the same.
  • Practice Hygge principles. Although Hygge is often connected with surviving winter in cold climates, the principles have to do with creating “a quality of coziness (= feeling warm, comfortable, and safe) that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking, or spending time at home with your family.” You can read more here: https://carolbrusegar.com/hygge-art-of-coziness/

By focusing on balance, positive use of time at home and reflecting on our experiences, all of us can make the best of a challenging situation. Everything we do to keep ourselves and others positive, hopeful and forward-looking will pay large dividends.

 

Journaling Techniques to Boost Your Creativity

Journal and CoffeeWhatever our situation, stage of life, or needs, creativity is a valuable skill. On a personal level as well as in our jobs and groups and institutions in which we are involved, there’s a continual need for creative approaches and solutions.

Journaling can be a tool to expand creativity. Simply writing has great power to bring ideas, possibilities and breakthroughs. Yet, it is easy to get into a pattern – even a rut – with our journaling by doing it the same way continually. And many people either don’t journal at all or sporadically.

Here are some ways to diversify journalers’ practices that can activate new creativity and perhaps inspire non-journalers to try some of these different approaches.

Drawing

You don’t have to be a graphic designer or an artist to use this technique. Simply pick up a pencil or colored pencils/pens and start drawing. You don’t need to have a specific subject in mind, or you may give yourself a topic or a problem that you want to creatively address.

It isn’t about drawing something perfectly – it doesn’t matter how the drawing looks. What matters is that you’re taking the time to just let your creativity flow. Don’t worry about any “rules” and draw whatever comes to mind. You may be surprised what appears.

Use Mixed Media

Mixed media journaling is basically using different types of content. For part of the journal you’ll jot down your ideas, then you can use pictures, ticket stubs and potentially even drawing to inspire your creativity.

Use the Power of Music  

Have you ever noticed just how much of an impact music can have on your creativity? It can really help to play some uplifting or inspiring music while writing or drawing in your journal.

You’ll find as the music plays, you’ll start to experience numerous emotions. Thoughts will also automatically pop into your head – write these down.

It can also help if you listen to the music through headphones as this will block out all other noises, allowing you to be fully immersed in the music.

Try Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a fairly new journaling technique which can work wonders for creative people. It’s a visual style journal – you record your ideas in a visual way.

For example, write down the main theme of your idea or topic, draw a big circle around it, then think of other ideas which relate to it. You then connect your sub ideas to the main idea. Allowing your mind to see and expand on connections can open up new vistas of thought.

Brainstorm

Brainstorming is simply rapidly generating a variety of ideas or possible solutions. It is most commonly used in a group setting, but individuals can use it effectively as well.  Simply focus on the topic you are addressing and write down every idea without worrying about how doable or realistic they are.  Just let the ideas flow. Keep writing, even keep your pen moving when you think you are empty. It’s likely more things will rise to the surface.  A second step after all the ideas are on paper is to either do some traditional journaling about some of the most intriguing thoughts.  This could be augmented by mindmapping.

May your creativity and creative problem solving be expanded by using these techniques.

If you want to explore additional creativity ideas, check out:   21 Ways to Skyrocket Your Creativity

21 Ways to Skyrocket Your Creativity ("21 Ways" Book 5) by [Laidig, Tony]

Tips For Reinvention From an Unusual Source

footprints

 

Reinventing or transforming life after age 50 is one of my passions.  I gained a helpful perspective from  an article written by one who has reinvented himself many times to the extreme. Reading about the range of major reinventions this author has made encourages me to think bigger about the possibilities for myself and others.  Jack Barsky has made transformations that very few make – or would want to make. But the principles are interesting.

You may have seen Barsky on 60 Minutes, CNN, Fox, or MSNBC or read his book, Deep Undercover. Barsky was born in Germany, was a chemistry professor for years, was recruited by the KGB, spent 10 years in the United States spying for the Russians during the Cold War, and ended up a United States citizen and information technology executive.

Based on the major shifts as well as a number of fictional characters he became in his travels, Barsky offers 9 Tips for Mastering the Art of Reinvention – behaviors we might adopt as we are reinventing ourselves at any stage of life.

Two that stand out for me are Take a Self Inventory and Work on Your Soft Skills.  Barsky’s recommended Self Inventory is to focus on talents and abilities you have, regardless of whether or not you have ever used them to earn a living. Often we fail to recognize the skills and abilities we have developed and used in volunteer work and other activities. These may be transferable or adaptable to various other settings.

Take 15 minutes or so to write down the things you have done outside your major work experience – side jobs, volunteer work, hobbies. Then list what you did and learned in them. You may be astounded at your list.

Working on Your Soft Skills is a logical next step to the Self Inventory.  Soft skills are defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” The list of soft skills can vary; here is a representative one: effective communication skills, teamwork, dependability, adaptability, conflict resolution, flexibility, leadership, problem-solving, research, creativity, work ethic, integrity. We can demonstrate and develop these skills in all aspects of our lives. Take one of these and think of the ways you demonstrate it in work settings, volunteer work, family, friendship circles, etc. This exercise may broaden your perspective of skills you have and want to expand as well as ways to apply them in new ways as you reinvent your life.

Barsky wraps up his nine tips by stating “power is having options.”  This really summarizes his message: “Fulfillment … requires an attitude of life-long learning and a willingness to periodically shed the old skin and step into a new self.”

You can read the entire article here:

9 Tips for Mastering the Art of Reinvention

NOTE: You may find Barsky’s book Deep Uncover interesting. An Amazon review describes it this way: “Equal parts memoir, spycraft guide, and historical document, Deep Undercover perfectly describes the crippling insularity of the spy’s life.”  If you are interested in his book, you can find it here:

Deep Undercover

 

Black Pepper During Flu Season

PepperI previously talked of some natural approaches to prevention and treatment of cold and flu: https://carolbrusegar.com/using-natural-preventatives-and-treatments/

Another preventative and treatment that is right in your cupboard is black pepper!  We think of it as a basic seasoning and perhaps little more, but it is known to have powerful cold-fighting properties. Not only is it great for the immune system, but it’s also known to help with a wide range of other ailments too.

How can black pepper help during flu season?

Regular consumption of black pepper can help to fight off infections and boost the immune system. It contains an especially high amount of Vitamin C – a crucial vitamin in the treatment of colds. Black pepper contains a high level of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is these which prove useful in the prevention and treatment of colds and the flu.

Another great benefit of black pepper is that it can help to alleviate congestion. A common symptom of colds and the flu is chest congestion. So, even if it’s too late to use black pepper to prevent a cold, you can still use it to help alleviate the symptoms.

How can you use it?

There are numerous ways you can use this spice to prevent and help to treat a cold. Of course, add more to various foods on an ongoing basis – soups, stews, egg dishes, salads, in rubs on meats, etc.  If you’re already fighting a cold, you could try mixing black pepper with honey. This is especially great for suppressing a cough and it’s been used in Indian medicine for centuries. You’ll need to crush up the peppercorns and mix it with a little honey for maximum benefits.

Another way of using black pepper to combat colds is to add half a teaspoon to a cupful of water. Add in some ground tulsi leaves* and half a teaspoon of chopped ginger. You should aim to drink it at lukewarm temperature. If you’re not keen on the taste, you can add a spoonful of honey.

*Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is a close relative of culinary basil for cooking. The three varieties of Tulsi do, however, have additional medicinal benefits. These include being anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, and ability to stimulate the immune system’s activity. It comes in a variety of forms – leaves, tea, capsules and more. To explore the options, go here: Tulsi Options

Are there any side effects?

In terms of using black pepper in cooking, there aren’t any side effects to be aware of. However, if you’ll be taking black pepper supplements, you’ll want to stick to ones with a strength of 5mg to 20mg. Higher strengths could produce burning sensation in the throat or high absorption of medication. These are the only two potential side effects identified.

What other ailments does black pepper help with?

As well as helping to fight off colds and flu, black pepper can also potentially help with other ailments such as:

  • Arthritis inflammation
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • High blood sugar
  • Poor gut health

The health benefits of black pepper are extensive – and it is one of the cheapest and easiest spices to use!  So in general, to boost your immune system, be generous in your use of pepper in your food and explore additional uses. If you do develop a cold or flu, you can use supplements or more potent black pepper remedies to eliminate the symptoms.

Here’s a selection of pepper, peppercorns and more: Black Pepper

And a Black Pepper Supplement

USING NATURAL PREVENTATIVES AND TREATMENTS DURING FLU AND COLD SEASON

Cold-Flu 2

Be proactive to avoid and cut short colds and flus! Flu and cold season – which seems to get longer and longer – is a challenge to navigate. Even the flu vaccines are not totally effective because of the various strains of flu in a given year. There are additional over the counter medications and prescription drugs available as well. We are encouraged to avoid getting or spreading these conditions by washing our hands a lot, not touching our face, staying home if we are sick, etc.

In addition to all of this, I personally favor natural preventatives and treatments as much as possible. I found an article from a couple of years ago that offers 10 natural cold and flu remedies that work that you may want to consider. A couple of them were new to me and perhaps you also will find a natural preventative or remedy to try.

Here are some of the suggestions provided by the author on The Healthy Maven blog:

  • Gargle with salt water – do this at the first sign you may be getting sick. I have personally done this just recently and it was effective.
  • Honey – this can be as is, or in over the counter cough syrups (all-natural varieties). Raw honeys are the best if possible.
  • Ginger which comes in a variety of forms – root, powder, capsules, even candies.
  • Elderberry Syrup which both is a great preventative and treatment. There are a variety of other elderberry options. I have used and found elderberry to be very effective. Here’s more information in an earlier post: https://carolbrusegar.com/what-are-elderberries-health/
  • Propolis – produced by bees to seal their hives and very anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It’s available as a throat spray. Reviews indicate that this throat spray is a good preventative when used daily, as well as to nip a scratchy throat or other symptoms quickly. Propolis Throat Spray
  • Essential Oils – Eucalyptus and peppermint as well as combinations of various oils can be used effectively. These can be infused and benefit everyone in the household as well as being applied topically or ingested. It’s important to know exactly how to do this.

There are a couple of additional natural approaches that are widely recommended: hot green tea and turmeric.

Hot green tea is high in antioxidants and stimulates organ function; add honey for a double benefit.  Turmeric reduces inflammation in our bodies, and we hear more and more that inflammation is related to many conditions. It can make us feel achy and sometimes lead to illness. Make a paste from powdered turmeric (from the spice shelf) with water and mix into warm milk or tea.

Let’s do everything we can to avoid colds and flus and to get rid of them if we happen to get them, using natural substances as much as possible!

 

 

EXPANDING THE PARAMETERS OF YOUR DECEMBER HOLIDAY

Reaching OutAs I write this post, it is one week before Christmas. For many people, the entire focus of the past month has been on preparing for that day as the culmination of the season. Often they start the hustle and bustle the day after Thanksgiving – shopping, decorating social events, etc. Then by the day or so after Christmas or at least before New Year’s Eve, it’s all over. Decorations down, focus on recuperation and the coming “return to routine.”

I prefer to observe the 12 Days of Christmas which for centuries have been a time of celebration – starting with December 25 and ending on the evening of January 5. Others observe the pan-African holiday Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1, celebrating family, community and culture.

The Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, follows a lunar calendar so the dates vary, but in 2019 it is from sundown on December 22 through sundown on December 30. This whole period of time includes a variety of celebrations that we can learn about and from, especially if they are from a different culture or group.

What if we extended whatever holiday we observe by planning to do some simple things that demonstrated care and love to others? The time after Christmas and especially after New Years Day is often a time of let-down, of sadness and loneliness for people – perhaps you and people you know. The energy and push of the previous month is over, the days are still short and winter weather prevails.

Here are a few suggestions for extending the spirit of the holiday season:

1. Engage with an elderly person. The holidays can be tough for bedridden and nursing home-bound individuals. Bring love to those who need it most. Show up with books or magazines, do a crossword or puzzle together, sing songs or even just sit quietly and be a good listener.

2. Share a cup of cheer. Here’s a simple gesture to offer – surprise someone you love with a hot beverage. Coffee, tea, cocoa or chai, whatever their pleasure. Invite them to you home or to meet at a restaurant or coffee shop for relaxed time together.

3. Help someone who is struggling. If you live where winter includes cold and snow, there are likely people near you who could use some help managing. It may be keeping sidewalks and driveways clear. Or perhaps the elements are keeping them inside and isolated. A visit and a treat – cookies, a loaf of sweet bread, etc. – can be a real boost.

4. Get together with grandparents. After the group gatherings of the holidays, January can be very lonely. Make a visit, take them out for lunch or a movie or some other activity that will be enjoyable and give you a quieter time to be together.

5. During these coldest times of the year, there are people in need of warm hats, scarves or mittens. Check with a school or homeless shelter. You could knit or crochet and item or two individually or have a gathering of a few friends to make some items. If you aren’t crafty or don’t have time to do that, find some cozy things at the store and share them.

6. Remember those who have had tough holidays because of a breakup, the loss of loved ones, family conflict or other factors. Making contact and perhaps spending a little time with them, even on the phone, can be a boost. It’s a reminder that people remember and care.

If you are one who experiences down time, even depression, after the holidays, doing one or more of these or similar things can give you a sense of purpose as well as help someone else. A win-win situation for sure!

Simple Fall and Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas

thanksgiving decorI love fall decorating in my home. It adds warmth and coziness before the rush of Christmas or other holiday decorating. It can be simple and inexpensive, and other family members can get involved. Here are several ideas to try or to inspire you to think of additional things you can do right now.

1. Outdoor Display
Decorate the front yard with harvest-type items like a hay bale, pumpkins, gourds, etc. You can arrange seasonal items on a bench, chair or swing, and use baskets, burlap bags, or other containers.

A Happy Thanksgiving sign can be easily created out of wood, or create a flag out of felt. For a little color, plant a few mums, either in the ground or in pots and planters around the outside of the house, or along the pathway or drive leading up to it. You can get a lot of decorating ideas at your local nursery.

2. Door Wreath
Nothing says the holidays quite like a door wreath. You can purchase grapevine wreaths in many sizes at a craft store very inexpensively. Then hot glue or wire pine cones, chestnuts, acorns, small gourds and more onto the wreath. You could also use a foam base. To make it more reusable year after year, Silk leaves and flowers can be used.

3. Inside the House
Add fall colors in simple ways like using autumn-colored throw pillows or blankets on your couch. Scented candles in fall fragrances or a spicy, scented air freshener add those great fall scents to your whole house.

4. Mantelpiece Display
The mantel over your fireplace is the perfect place to decorate for Thanksgiving. For a simple display, arrange some pumpkins or decorative gourds and/or Indian corn on the mantelpiece, along with a few candles. Orange, gold or brown glass vases by themselves or filled with live or silk flowers and foliage are also a nice touch. Hang a fall garland or wreath above the mantelpiece, similar to the one on your front door.

5. Create a Centerpiece
An attractive centerpiece can set the tone of any holiday table or buffet table. If you have a buffet or side table, add decorations there too. Here are some suggestions.

Fall Flower Arrangement
You can choose fresh flowers or plants – particularly in yellow, orange, brown or bronze colors – and add greenery or fall grasses to the fresh flowers. Alternately, you can make an arrangement that you can use year after year from silk flowers and foliage in a vase, basket or cornucopia. Add a complementary bow and you are all set.

Pumpkins, Gourds, and Indian Corn
You can make a beautiful fall arrangement by setting out some miniature pumpkins and ears of Indian corn on your table or sideboard. Look for yellow, red, multicolored and purple varieties of corn for an authentic Thanksgiving feel. Scatter them across your dining table or arrange them in a bowl for a nice centerpiece. And of course, there is nothing more gorgeous than a range of gourds. Keep them in a cool place and they can last for ages.

Candles and Seasonal Items
Candles always add a warm feel to a room. Pair them with displays of acorns, chestnuts and mini pumpkins.

Decorate or Paint Pumpkins
Painting pumpkins with a design can be great fun and result in some unique decorations. Acrylic craft paints, found in all craft stores and craft sections of other stores work well. Or you can choose or make stencils and spray paint them. Here’s some more information about painting pumpkins. Ehow – Painting Pumpkins

Hopefully, these ideas have inspired you to do some fall/Thanksgiving decorating.

If you are interested in additional fall decor items, go to this Amazon link to shop or just to get more ideas:  Fall Decor Items

Enjoy this season before the December holidays begin! It’s a lovely time of year.